Posts Tagged ‘Kim Jong Un’

Trump flip-flops on North Korea, says it still represents ‘extraordinary threat’

June 23, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump contradicted himself Friday, announcing via an executive order that North Korea continues to pose “an unusual and extraordinary threat” to the United States — a statement that comes less than a week after he triumphantly declared that the North’s nuclear weapons were “no longer” a problem.

In the executive order, the president extended for one year the so-called national emergency with respect to the nuclear-armed North, reauthorizing economic restrictions against the country.

Although expected, the declaration — made following his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore — comes just nine days after Trump tweeted, “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

By Jesse Johnson
Japan Times

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, suit

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands after signing documents during their summit at the Capella Hotel on Singapore’s resort island of Sentosa on June 12. | REUTERS

The national emergency, which has been renewed by every president since it was put in place in June 2008 during the George W. Bush administration, highlights the continued tensions between the two nations, despite disputed claims by Trump that the conflict has been resolved.

It states that “the existence and risk of proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material” and the actions and policies of the North Korean government “continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping raise a toast in Beijing, China, in this undated photo released June 20, 2018 by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency. KCNA via AFP

Tensions with Pyongyang have stoked fears of conflict, spiking last year as the North tested missiles that experts believe are capable of striking most of the continental United States and could be tipped with nuclear warheads. Those fears eased this year as the North embarked on a charm offensive, meeting with South Korean and Chinese leaders, and culminating in the June 12 summit in Singapore — the first meeting between sitting leaders from the U.S. and North Korea.

In a vaguely worded joint statement from the summit, Kim agreed to work “towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” among other lofty goals, leaving much of the details to be handled in follow-up negotiations led by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean officials “at the earliest possible date.”

Although seen as pro forma, Friday’s extension of the executive order laid bare the striking amount of work that lays ahead for the White House as it continues talks with the North over its nuclear weapons program — despite Trump’s claims that the problem has been dealt with.

Trump said at a Cabinet meeting Thursday that denuclearization had already begun, although his own defense chief, Jim Mattis, said a day earlier that he wasn’t aware that Pyongyang had taken any such steps, and that detailed negotiations had yet to begin.

Some observers have criticized the president for trumpeting a successful summit despite the lack of any substantial new concessions in the so-called Singapore Declaration — the short, four-point joint statement released at the meeting’s conclusion.

“Like the Singapore Declaration, I’m going to bet the President has not read this and has no idea what it says. Because he told us the North Korea nuclear threat was ‘over,’ ” Vipin Narang, a North Korea expert and professor of international relations at MIT, wrote on Twitter, referring to the executive order. “Apparently he disagrees with himself.”


Trump declares North Korea ‘no longer a nuclear threat’ (June 13, 2018)


Ten days after Trump-Kim summit hard work yet to begin

June 23, 2018

The landmark summit between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un ended with a pledge of “complete denuclearization,” but ten days on no timetable for action has emerged.

After flying back to Washington last week, giddy with success, the US leader tweeted “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea” — a bold claim with Kim’s arsenal still in place.

© Anthony Wallave, POOL/AFP | US President Donald Trump (R) walks out with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (L) after taking part in a signing ceremony at the end of their historic US-North Korea summit in Singapore on June 12.

But senior US officials admit there is much work to be done as negotiators thrash out the details of what they hope will be Pyongyang “complete, verifiable and irreversible” disarmament.

Many observers were disappointed that the short statement of intent signed by the two leaders was not more clear on the definition of denuclearization, fearing Kim plans to keep his hard-won deterrent.

>> Trump-Kim summit the art of the deal? No, say experts

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo angrily insists that the term “complete” in the document “encompasses” the concept that the denuclearization will be “verifiable and irreversible.”

Trump has gone further, claiming on June 12 that the process will start very quickly, then on June 21 confusing the issue: “It will be a total denuclearization, which is already taking place.”

Pompeo has been only marginally more cautious.

On June 13, he said “We believe that Kim Jong Un understands the urgency … that we must do this quickly” and added that he hopes for “major disarmament” within two-and-a-half years.

So far, however, this confidence rests solely on trust in the assurances that Kim gave Trump at the summit, and his reported promise to China to “implement the summit’s consensus step by step.”

When Pompeo said of Kim’s pledge, “I was there when he said it. He made a personal commitment. He has his reputation on the line,” Thomas Wright, a senior fellow at Brookings, was scathing.

“This is one of the most naive statements ever made by an American diplomat,” Wright wrote on Twitter. “I hope he is trying to mislead us because it would be truly frightening if he believed it.”

Abraham Denmark of the Wilson Center warned a congressional hearing: “Considering North Korea’s repeated history of violating past agreements, there is little reason to trust them this time.”

And, despite his professed faith in Kim’s word, Pompeo knows he has work to do to establish a roadmap towards concrete steps and that he will have to speak to Kim again, probably in Pyongyang.

Highlighting this apparent gap between Trump’s rhetoric and facts on the ground, the administration Friday cited the “unusual and extraordinary threat” from North Korea’s nuclear arsenal to extend decade-old sanctions on Kim’s regime in a statement to Congress.

War games

“There’s a lot of work between here and there. My team is already doing it. I’ll likely travel back before too terribly long,” Pompeo said on Monday, without setting a travel date.

Pompeo’s spokeswoman Heather Nauert has said she will not provide details of the negotiations, warning reporters the process “can be difficult when we’re distracted by all of the questions going on.”

But she denied that the talks were at a dead halt, even if the detailed negotiations have yet to begin.

“We have been in communication with the Government of North Korea,” she said on Thursday.

“Secretary Pompeo will be meeting with them and talking with them at the earliest possible date to try to implement the outcomes of the US-DPRK summit.”

While Pompeo pushes on with follow up talks, Trump appears happy to celebrate the summit as a success, as if the joint statement itself marked a beginning to the end of Kim’s nuclear program.

He claims he has already received “good news” and on Thursday declared that the North has “already blown up one of their big test sites. In fact, it was actually four of their big test sites.”

But the North Korean test site at Punggye-ri was demolished in late May, weeks before the summit, and there does not appear to have been any disarmament activity since then despite Trump’s boast.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who has been ordered by Trump to unilaterally halt “provocative” US war games in South Korea, was cautious when asked whether the North had indeed begun to disarm.

“No, I’m not aware of that. I mean, obviously, it’s the very front end of a process. The detailed negotiations have not begun. I wouldn’t expect that at this point,” he told reporters.


Putin, Moon agree that Trump-Kim summit to help denuclearization

June 22, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed on Friday to support “efforts to establish complete denuclearization on the Korean peninsula” following the U.S.-North Korea summit last week.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and South Korean President Moon Jae-in attend a welcoming ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

A joint statement signed by the two leaders during a state visit by Moon to Russia was released by South Korea’s presidential Blue House. Moon arrived in Russia on Thursday, the first official visit by a South Korean president since 1999.

The Russian and South Korean leaders agreed that last week’s historic summit in Singapore between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would contribute to denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Putin and Moon agreed to “continue joint efforts to establish complete denuclearization on the Korean peninsula and secure permanent peace and stability on the peninsula and (in)Northeast Asia.”

Both Moscow and Seoul are hoping that reduced tensions with Pyongyang will open up opportunities for economic and infrastructure projects that would directly link South Korea with Russia through North Korea.

Those plans are currently blocked by international sanctions on North Korea which international leaders have said will not be lifted until North Korea makes significant moves to give up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and South Korean President Moon Jae-in attend a welcoming ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Trump said on Thursday that a process of “total denuclearization … has already started” in North Korea, but U.S. officials familiar with current intelligence on North Korea’s nuclear and missile test sites said there was no evidence of new moves to dismantle any sites.

A number of countries, including South Korea and Russia, have nevertheless begun looking for ways to engage with North Korea economically should sanctions be lifted.

Putin and Moon agreed to joint research in the fields of electricity, gas and railways in order to advance cooperative projects between North Korea, Russia and South Korea.

Their statement said “large-scale infrastructure projects will contribute to Northeast Asia’s peace and prosperity.”

Railway projects were an area of common interest, the statement said, noting the development of a railway link between the Russian eastern border town of Khasan and the North Korean port of Rajin.

Putin and Moon also agreed to cooperate on joint research to connect the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Trans-Korean Railway.

Moon invited Putin to South Korea at a convenient time, which Putin accepted, the statement said.

Reporting by Joyce Lee in SEOUL and Polina Nikolskaya in MOSCOW; Editing by Catherine Evans

Analyst: U.S.-North Korea relations go beyond warhead count

June 21, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump‘s assurances North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat, following his summit with Kim Jong Un, have been met with skepticism and even ridicule — but his assertion may be grounded in results.

Trump’s confidence in his diplomacy is better understood if the focus is shifted to the political realm, where changes have significantly reconfigured U.S.-North Korea relations, Tom Collina, policy director at the Ploughshares Fund in Washington, told UPI.

By  Elizabeth Shim

U.S.-North Korea relations are about more than just a game of technology, a U.S. analyst tells UPI. Photo by KCNA

“This isn’t just a game of technology and counting warheads,” Collina said. “It’s a game of how do you change dynamics and the way countries think about each other.”

After returning to Washington last week, Trump tweeted, “Everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

That statement came after Trump called Kim “very talented” and praised him for his ability to govern North Korea.

“There’s two scenarios here,” Collina said. “One is that Trump is simply delusional and he doesn’t understand that North Korea isn’t as much of a threat technically today than they were before the summit.”

“The other scenario is that he’s thinking at a different level. He’s talking more politically.”

The analyst added, “The most positive way you can interpret what the president is saying is that he’s convinced that there’s a new relationship with North Korea, such that they would never choose to attack us.”

But even atmospherics cannot guarantee a deterrent against North Korea’s weapons, which Collina described as more advanced than assumed in 2017.

Last year, most North Korea watchers would not have guessed Kim would switch gears to all-out diplomacy.

“We didn’t expect they would see so much progress in nuclear development in 2017, that as of 2018, they would be prepared to stop,” the analyst said.

“But in retrospect, you can see that that was the plan all along. That the North was pushing very aggressively to make progress in 2017 with nuclear and long-range missile tests.”

In the absence of greater transparency and a more specific nuclear disarmament schedule, time may be on Kim’s side.

“We’re playing a two- to four-year game and the North Koreans are playing a 10-, 20-year game,” Collina said, referring to the U.S. election cycle and changes in administrations that can lead to drastic changes in North Korea policy.

“They don’t assume the administration they’re working with is going to be around much longer. They negotiated a deal with the Clinton administration, only to see the Bush administration come in and tear it up. My guess is, they’re looking at Trump and they’re thinking, what can we achieve with Trump before 2020.”

Not only does North Korea’s authoritarian regime have time to spare, any approach to “complete denuclearization” would be protracted, which makes the process challenging, says James McKeon, a policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington.

“It’s extremely unlikely in the near term that North Korea would identify facilities we don’t know about and actually come to completely verifiable irreversible disarmament,” McKeon told UPI, adding facilities in North Korea created to enrich uranium and make weapons-grade plutonium complicate the picture.

Estimates of a nuclear timetable have ranged from two years to as much as 15.

“This is an unprecedented effort. Making estimates for how long it’s going to take is difficult. But it’s going to take years, absolutely no doubt. You’re talking about dismantling an entire nuclear infrastructure,” McKeon said.

Collina said with the conclusion of the U.S.-North Korea summit we “need to see more” from Pyongyang.

“We need a declaration of what they have, where is it, and then you need to let inspectors in to verify that,” the analyst said.

“There are real things they can get the North to do. Probably what you can’t do in two years is getting beyond the North’s declaration.

“The deeper you go to root out this program the more years it takes.”

North Korea’s Kim hails ‘unity’ with China in new visit

June 20, 2018

Kim Jong Un declared North Korea’s unstinting “friendship, unity and cooperation” with Beijing during his third visit to China this year, in a show of loyalty to his main ally following a landmark summit with US President Donald Trump.

The two-day visit which ends Wednesday is designed to reassure Beijing that Pyongyang will not neglect its interests as Trump and the young autocrat move into uncharted diplomatic terrain.

© AFP | Graphic on Kim Jong Un’s three visits to China this year

The performance is part of a delicate balancing act for Kim, who analysts say is seeking to play US and Chinese interests off each other while maintaining good relations with Beijing, his economic patron and diplomatic protector.

China and the US both hope to see the Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons, but Beijing is concerned Washington and Pyongyang might move closer at its expense, a possibility that China sees as threatening to its economic and security interests in the region.

While China was not present at the June 12 summit in Singapore, it lent Kim a plane to travel to the city-state, a clear sign that it remains an influential force in the diplomatic shuffle.

The Cold War-era allies, which fought side-by-side against US-led UN forces and South Korea in the 1950-1953 Korean War, have sought to repair ties strained by Pyongyang’s nuclear tests and Beijing’s support of subsequent UN sanctions.

Kim chose Beijing for his first official foreign trip in March and met Xi again in May in the northeastern port city of Dalian.

Kim’s agenda for Wednesday was not made public. An AFP journalist saw a motorcade leaving the Diaoyutai guest house for foreign dignitaries in Beijing, but it was unclear where it was headed.

During his meeting with Xi Tuesday, Kim thanked China for “positive and sincere support and good help for the successful” summit with Trump, according to North Korea’s official KCNA news agency.

The North Korean leader, who was greeted by a military honour guard and cheering children at the Great Hall of the People Tuesday, said he valued the “recently strengthened strategic cooperation” between the two countries.

“He expressed the determination and will to further develop the closer relations of friendship, unity and cooperation between the two parties and the two peoples of the DPRK and China,” KCNA said.

Kim also invoked the “prospect for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula” following his meeting with Trump.

For his part, Xi told Kim that China “speaks highly” of his summit with Trump and he urged Washington and Pyongyang to implement their agreement struck in Singapore.

The Chinese leader vowed that Beijing would continue to play a “constructive role” in the nuclear diplomacy.

– Trade card –

The official media of both countries did not say whether Kim and Xi discussed the prospect of easing UN sanctions that have crippled North Korea’s economy, though analysts said it could have been part of the agenda.

Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said Kim and Xi were likely seeking “common ground” following the Singapore summit.

For China, North Korea can serve as “an important card” as Beijing faces a potential trade war with the United States, Shin told AFP.

“For the North, it can also show to the world, especially the US, that Beijing has Pyongyang’s back if the North’s ties with the US sour in the future,” Shin said.

North Korean officials have also visited China recently to learn about its economic reforms — yet another sign of Pyongyang’s reliance on Beijing for its economic wellbeing.

Kim was believed to have visited an agriculture sciences centre on Wednesday, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

“We are happy to see that the DPRK made a major decision to shift the focus to economic construction, and the development of the DPRK’s socialist cause has entered a new stage in history,” Xi told Kim, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.

China has backed United Nations sanctions against its ally but indicated last year that the UN Security Council could consider easing the punitive measures.



Moon suggests Russian gas be piped to Koreas, Japan

June 20, 2018

New pipelines could be laid to bring Russian gas through North Korea to the South and even on to Japan following the diplomatic thaw with Pyongyang, Seoul’s leader suggested Wednesday.

President Moon Jae-in was speaking to Russian news media before a three-day visit to Moscow starting Thursday, with the presidential Blue House releasing the transcript.

Russia and South Korea agreed in 2008 to lay gas pipelines through the North to bring Russian natural gas to the South. But the project failed to take off due to tensions over the North’s nuclear weapons programme.

© AFP/File | South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has proposed new pipelines through North Korea to bring Russian gas to his country

Restoring inter-Korean railroads and linking them to trans-Siberian railways would also enable overland transport from trade-dependent South Korea to Europe, Moon added.

“This will bring huge economic benefits to the South and the North as well as Russia,” he said.

At the unprecedented summit between the North and the US in Singapore last week, US President Donald Trump showed Pyongyang’s Kim Jong Un a video showing the North transformed by economic growth.

The summit, Moon said, had “succeeded beyond all expectations”, although some analysts said little of substance was agreed.

In a joint statement afterwards the North committed to “work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”, without making an explicit commitment to give up its weapons.

The two rivals also agreed to establish new ties and work to build a “lasting and stable peace regime” on the Korean peninsula.

But Moon said that “Chairman Kim has expressed his willingness to give up his nuclear arsenal and focus on economic build-up should the North be guaranteed safety”.

At earlier summits of his own with Kim, Moon added, the North Korean “turned out to be frank and straightforward and despite his age, maintained his composure” throughout their long talks.

South Korea must import the vast bulk of its oil and gas. But despite their geographical proximity Russia is only its sixth-biggest supplier, providing just 5.5 percent of total needs.


North Korea’s Kim makes another trip to China. That complicates things for Trump.

June 20, 2018

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is in China. Again.

Kim arrived Tuesday for his third visit to China in the span of three months, meeting with President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in the heart of Beijing.

The visit comes a week after President Trump met with Kim in Singapore and a day after the United States confirmed that it will cancel what Trump called “war games” with South Korea scheduled for August. News of Kim’s trip came just hours after Trump threatened China with tariffs on $200 billion in goods.

By Emily Rauhala
The Washington Post

Image result for Kim Jong Un, Xi Jinping photos

On Tuesday evening, Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, were welcomed by Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan. Photos from the event show Kim and Xi shaking hands in front of a row of Chinese and North Korean flags — a visual echo of Kim and Trump’s much-photographed handshake in Singapore.

Xi reportedly praised the outcome of the Singapore summit, calling it an “important step toward the political solution of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue,” according to the party-
controlled press.

On Wednesday, North Korean state media said Kim and Xi reached an understanding on denuclearization and other issues following the Singapore summit. The report by the Korean Central News Agency did not give details on the views shared by the two leaders. But in the past, North Korea defined denuclearization as including an end to the U.S.-South Korean military alliance and a shift in U.S. defense policies to end nuclear protection for South Korea and Japan.

During Kim’s previous trips outside the country, including the Singapore summit, North Korea’s state media waited until he returned home before reporting its version of the talks.

Although details are scarce, the timing and staging of Kim’s trip sends a clear message about Beijing’s place at the center of East Asian diplomacy — and its power over Pyongyang.

With U.S.-China trade ties on the rocks, Kim is well-positioned to play both powers, talking sweet to Trump while pursuing a closer relationship with Xi.

“Although it seems there is a blooming romance between Kim Jong Un and Trump, Kim understands the hierarchy. He knows that Xi is the Asian Godfather,” said Yanmei Xie, a China policy analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics, an economic research firm in Beijing. “He is making a pragmatic calculation that China can provide economic assistance to integrate North Korea diplomatically and economically into Northeast Asia.”

Kim’s visit to China this week will renew questions about what happens post-Singapore. Although Trump has taken great pains to cast last week’s summit as an unqualified success, the next steps are not clear.

With North Korea’s nuclear tests halted for now, and August’s war games off, China may be willing to cut North Korea some slack.

In Beijing, Kim is likely to ask Xi to ease up on economic sanctions — something the United States strongly opposes.

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a news conference in Beijing with Foreign Minister Wang Yi that China “acknowledged that the sanctions regime that is in place today will remain in place until such time as that denuclearization is in fact complete.”

But the problem is that there is no consensus on what “denuclearization” means. The United States wants North Korea to abandon the nuclear weapons program that it took years to build — an outcome experts see as extremely unlikely.

“There is a regional effort, a sort of Northeast Asia coalition of make-believe, to maintain the fiction that the North Korea will de-nuke as long as Americans keep talking to it,” Xie said.

China is less focused on getting Kim to give away his weapons than on getting him to fall into line. It may eventually use trade and investment to keep him onside, experts said.

With North Korea still struggling under U.N. sanctions, “China’s political and economic support is still highly important,” said Zhao Tong, a North Korea expert at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing.

Zhao said the question now is: “How can China help North Korea develop its economy?”

China can also help Kim normalize North Korea’s diplomatic status. That starts with treating him less like a rogue dictator and more like a visiting statesman.

On Kim’s first visit as leader, in March, he arrived unannounced aboard an armored train. Beijing did not disclose his presence, or publish photos, until he left.

Kim met Xi a second time in May in the Chinese city of Dalian. Photographs of the two leaders strolling and chatting by the seaside were not released until Kim was on his way home.

On Tuesday evening, Chinese news media released photographs of Kim meeting Xi at the Great Hall of the People, where he often greets visiting dignitaries — the first time photos of Kim in China have been released while a visit was in progress.

Brian Murphy in Seoul and Shirley Zhao and Yang Liu in Beijing contributed to this report.

China’s Xi praises North Korea’s Kim for Trump summit, promises support

June 20, 2018

Chinese President Xi Jinping offered high praise to visiting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday, lauding the “positive” outcome of his historic summit with U.S. President Donald Trump and promising unwavering friendship.

Meeting Kim on his third trip to China this year, and just a week after Kim met Trump in Singapore on June 12, Xi said China was willing to keep playing a positive role to promote the peace process on the Korean peninsula.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping raise a toast in Beijing, China, in this undated photo released June 20, 2018 by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency. KCNA via AFP

Kim’s visit was the latest in a flurry of diplomatic contacts, and unlike during his previous two visits to China, the government announced his presence while he was in the country rather than waiting for him to leave.

Xi told Kim he was very happy to see the “positive” outcome of his meeting with Trump, and the important consensus reached on denuclearisation and setting up a lasting peace mechanism, according to Chinese state television.

“No matter the changes in the international and regional situation, China’s party and government’s resolute position on being dedicated to consolidating and developing Sino-North Korea relations will not change,” the report cited Xi as saying.

“The Chinese people’s friendship for the North Korean people will not change, and China’s support for socialist North Korea will not change,” Xi added.

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing and suit

The first ladies of North Korea and China joined their husbands Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping at the gathering in Beijing. (Photo: AFP)

Kim told Xi he hoped to work with China and other parties to push the peace process, Chinese state television said.

Asked about Kim’s latest Beijing visit, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, “we are watching it closely”.

She said Washington was in continuing communication with the North Korea government and added: “We look forward to them following through on their commitments and agreements that they made last week at the summit.”

At the Singapore summit, the first meeting between a serving U.S. president and a North Korean leader, Kim reaffirmed a commitment to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula”, while Trump said he would end “provocative” joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.

Although Trump has hailed the Singapore summit as a success, skeptics have questioned whether he achieved anything new, given that Pyongyang, which has rejected unilateral nuclear disarmament, appeared to make no new concrete commitments.

The United States has led an international sanctions drive to press North Korea to abandon development of nuclear weapons capable of reaching the United States and Trump has expressed concern that China may be easing up on its enforcement of these steps.

South Korea and the Pentagon announced they would halt the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian military drill scheduled for August.

At the summit, Trump also said North Korea had agreed to return remains of U.S. soldiers missing from the 1950-53 Korean War and U.S. officials said on Tuesday that that process could start within the next few days.

While not formally billed as a state visit, China gave Kim most of the trappings of one, including a welcome ceremony with honor guard in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

Xi greeted Kim warmly, in images carried on state television. The two men were accompanied by their wives.

Xi said he was pleased to see North Korea’s decision to promote economic reforms, adding that China’s own reform and opening up process had meant the Chinese people’s eyes had been open to the world.

North Korean state media had not mentioned Kim’s visit by early evening.

A Kim trip to China to discuss his summit with Trump had been widely anticipated in diplomatic circles. China is North Korea’s most important diplomatic and economic backer but has been angered by its nuclear and missile tests.

South Korea’s foreign ministry spokesman said South Korea and China shared the strategic goal of completely denuclearising the Korean peninsula.

“Our government hopes China will play a constructive role in resolving this problem,” ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-deok told a regular briefing.

“We hope Chairman Kim Jong Un’s visit will contribute to that.”


China has welcomed the warming of ties between the United States and North Korea, and offered to help.

It has been particularly pleased by Trump’s decision to suspend military drills with South Korea. It has long proposed a “dual suspension”, whereby North Korea stops weapons tests and the United States and South Korea stop military drills, to encourage talks.

“South Korea and the United States have agreed to suspend all planning activities regarding the Freedom Guardian military drill scheduled for August,” South Korea’s defense ministry said in a statement.

The Pentagon confirmed the suspension, adding that the secretaries of defense and state as well as Trump’s national security adviser would meet on the issue this week.

Last year, 17,500 American and more than 50,000 South Korean troops joined the Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills, although the exercise is mostly focused on computerized simulations rather than field exercises.

The U.S.-South Korean exercise calendar hits a high point every spring with the Foal Eagle and Max Thunder drills, which both wrapped up last month.

The decision to halt military exercises in South Korea has bewildered many current and former U.S. defense officials, who only learned about it when Trump announced it in Singapore, after the summit with Kim.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said there would be no changes to joint drill plans between the United States and Japan, both of which regularly practise to deter North Korea.

“The United States is in a position to keep its commitment to its allied nations’ defense and our understanding is there is no change to the U.S. commitment to the Japan-U.S. alliance and the structure of American troops stationed in Japan,” Suga told a regular briefing.

Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera said the decision to suspend the U.S.-South Korean exercises was made to support the diplomatic effort between the United States and North Korea but added it was “important to be wary of North Korea actions”.

“Our view of the threat has not changed. Joint training is an important in maintaining peace and stability in the region,” he said.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING and Christine Kim in SEOUL; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom and Idrees Ali in WASHINGTON and Kaori Kaneko in TOKYO; Editing by Robert Birsel and James Dalgleish



North Korea’s Kim in China; U.S., South Korea suspend military drill

June 19, 2018

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, where he will likely brief Chinese President Xi Jinping on his summit with U.S. President Donald Trump last week, as Washington and Seoul agreed to suspend a major joint military exercise.

Image may contain: 7 people, people smiling, people standing and suit

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrives for a tour of the Marina Bay Sands SkyPark in Singapore on June 11, 2018

Diana Chan/AFP/Getty Images

This is Kim’s third trip to China this year, coming a week after he met Trump in Singapore for historic talks.

Trump agreed to work with Kim toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, committed to provide the North’s regime with security guarantees and pledged to end “war games”, which Pyongyang and Beijing have long seen as provocative. South Korea and the Pentagon announced they would halt the annual Freedom Guardian military drill scheduled for August.

In an unusual move, Chinese state media announced Kim’s visit and said he would stay for two days. Previously China would only confirm Kim had visited after he had left the country. No other details were provided.

A Kim trip to China to discuss his summit with Trump had been widely anticipated in diplomatic circles. China is North Korea’s most important diplomatic and economic backer but has been angered by Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests.

Police tightened security along Beijing’s main Changan Avenue, which leads to the Great Hall of the People where Chinese leaders normally meet visiting heads of state, and also outside the Diaoyutai State Guest House, where Kim stayed with his wife during his March visit to Beijing.

Outside the east gate of the Great Hall, where foreign leaders are officially welcomed, authorities had erected a screen running the full length of the road, cutting off the view behind it.

A car believed to be carrying North Korean leader Kim Jung Un enters the Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing, China, in this photo taken by Kyodo June 19, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS


China has welcomed the warming of ties between Washington and Pyongyang, and offered to help.

Beijing has been particularly pleased by Trump’s announcement to suspend military drills, which China has long pushed for under its “dual suspension” proposal, whereby North Korea stops weapons tests and the United States and South Korea stop military drills, so both sides can sit down for talks.

“South Korea and the United States have agreed to suspend all planning activities regarding the Freedom Guardian military drill scheduled for August,” according to a South Korean defense ministry statement.

A Pentagon statement confirmed the suspension and added that there would be a meeting between the secretaries of defense and state as well as Trump’s national security adviser on the issue this week.

Last year, 17,500 American and more than 50,000 South Korean troops participated in the Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills, although the exercise is mostly focused on computerized simulations rather than live field exercises that use weapons, tanks or aircraft.

The U.S.-South Korean exercise calendar hits a high point every spring with the Foal Eagle and Max Thunder drills, which both wrapped up last month.

The decision to halt military exercises in South Korea has bewildered many current and former U.S. defense officials, who only learned about it when Trump made his remarks after the Singapore meeting.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Tuesday there would be no changes to joint drill plans between the United States and Japan, both of which also engage in regular deterrence exercises against North Korea.

“The United States is in a position to keep its commitment to its allied nations’ defense and our understanding is there is no change to the U.S. commitment to the Japan-U.S. alliance and the structure of American troops stationed in Japan,” Suga said in a regular briefing.


The Pentagon has yet to publicly release the cost of previous and future joint military exercises with South Korea, a week after Trump cited their “tremendously expensive” cost as a reason for halting them.

Spending data for previous military exercises in Korea and elsewhere, however, suggest that the cost of a single exercise would be in the low or perhaps tens of millions of dollars in a U.S. military budget this year of nearly $700 billion.

In response to repeated requests for cost data, Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, said: “We are currently evaluating the costs of the exercises.”

Calculating the cost of military exercises is a complicated process, often requiring data from different branches of the military and spread over several budgets over different years.

Troops who would have been involved in the exercises would still require training and certification, which would still cost money, said Abraham Denmark, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia under President Barack Obama.

“To me, the idea of this as a cost saving measure doesn’t really make much sense,” Denmark said.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING and Christine Kim in SEOUL. Additional reporting by Idrees Ali in WASHINGTON and Kaori Kaneko in TOKYO. Editing by Lincoln Feast.



Kim Jong Un Is Heading to China After His Singapore Summit With Trump

June 19, 2018

The North Korean leader is making his third trip to China in three months

Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping shaking hands in Dalian, China, in May.
Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping shaking hands in Dalian, China, in May. PHOTO: KCNA/KNS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

BEIJING—North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is making a trip to China, his third visit to a key ally in as many months and an apparent follow-up to his landmark summit last week with President Donald Trump.

Chinese state media announced Mr. Kim’s visit would take place Tuesday and Wednesday; the brief reports didn’t provide further details.

His trip wasn’t previously announced and comes at a time of accelerating diplomacy around North Korea and its nuclear and missile programs. Foreign diplomats have said Mr. Kim was likely to visit China soon after his June 12 meeting with Mr. Trump in Singapore, to brief Chinese President Xi Jinping on the summit and discuss economic cooperation and other issues.

In their discussions, Mr. Xi and other Chinese leaders are expected to push for a direct, active role in negotiations over the Korean Peninsula’s future, including participation in talks with Washington, Seoul and Pyongyang over a peace treaty, according to the diplomats.

Mr. Kim, meanwhile, is expected to urge Mr. Xi to ease the sanctions that have hurt the North Korean economy in the past year—and which U.S. officials have said helped compel Mr. Kim to engage in negotiations.

Washington is eager to keep the pressure on Mr. Kim to ensure he proceeds with dismantling his nuclear program. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Beijing to maintain United Nations sanctions on Pyongyang during meetings with Mr. Xi and senior Chinese officials last week to brief them on the outcome of the Trump-Kim summit.

Mr. Pompeo told a joint news conference with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on Thursday that China had committed to maintaining the U.N. sanctions until the denuclearization process was complete.

Mr. Wang, however, didn’t mention sanctions, instead reaffirming China’s support for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and calling for security guarantees to address North Korea’s “legitimate” concerns.

The Chinese foreign minister also gave a noncommittal response when asked if China would support Mr. Pompeo’s plan, outlined on a visit to Seoul last week, to try to achieve “major disarmament” of North Korea’s nuclear weapons within 2½ years.

While China wants North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, it also wants to preserve its influence in Pyongyang and prevent the emergence of a unified, democratic and U.S.-allied Korea, according to diplomats and international security analysts.

China backed the North in the 1950-53 Korean War and has been its biggest trade partner for decades, but stepped up enforcement of U.N. sanctions in the past year or so in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile tests.

What Comes Next After the Trump-Kim Summit?

After the historic meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, The Wall Street Journal’s Gerald F. Seib asks: Who might be in the spotlight over the next couple of months? Photo: Getty

In the run-up to the Singapore summit, Beijing grew concerned that it was being sidelined in regional diplomacy, and that Messrs. Trump and Kim could reach a deal that didn’t take into account China’s interests.

The summit’s outcome allayed some of those concerns, especially President Trump’s commitment to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea. China had long called for that in exchange for North Korea freezing its nuclear weapons and missile tests.

China was also heartened by Mr. Trump’s statement in Singapore that he backed a role for Beijing in talks over a peace treaty to replace the armistice signed at the end of the Korean War. Discussions among U.S. officials and in the April meeting between Mr. Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in raised doubts about whether China needed to be involved in a peace treaty.

Japanese and South Korean media reported earlier Tuesday that Mr. Kim was likely to travel to China by air. This would be the third time the North Korean leader is known to fly abroad since taking power in late 2011.

Mr. Kim traveled to Beijing in late March by train, his first known trip outside of his country as leader. He then flew to the Chinese port city of Dalian in early May, meeting Mr. Xi again in a trip seen as preparation for the summit with Mr. Trump.

For the Singapore summit, the North Korean leader flew to the city-state and back to Pyongyang on an Air China Boeing 747, placing him under the aegis of Beijing during the longest flights he has made since assuming power.

Tuesday’s disclosure of Mr. Kim’s trip by Chinese state media marks a departure from how his past two visits to China were reported—with the announcements coming after he returned to his own country.

A spokesman for South Korea’s presidential office on Tuesday declined to confirm Mr. Kim’s latest trip to Beijing, but said Seoul intelligence officials are aware of the “situation between China and North Korea.”

Write to Jeremy Page at and Chun Han Wong at